CHICAGO – You don’t have to visit a museum to see some of the world’s most famous paintings – you can see them in Chicago’s potholes.
Local mosaic artist Jim Bachor is known for filling potholes with small, colorful mosaics. His latest street art series is called “Masterpieces,” and it recreates famous works of art that people would normally see at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“There’s kind of an interesting juxtaposition there, bringing masterpieces of a museum into the blighted pitfall,” Bachor said. “It was quite funny.”
There are four works in the series, each inspired by a famous painting: Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Andy Warhol’s Chairman Mao and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
Bachor chose pieces “relatively recognizable to the general public” and colorful enough to stand out to passersby.
Each mosaic is in a different part of the city: at Green and Randolph streets in the West Loop, Estes and Glenwood avenues in Rogers Park, in the 2000 block of West Crystal Street in Wicker Park and in the 4100 block of North Kostner Avenue in Old Irving Park.
Picking a pitfall can be difficult, Bachor said. He used to find a pothole and make a mosaic to match it, but by the time he was ready to install the art, the pothole would be filled, he said.
“I am completely at the mercy of the pitfalls,” said Bachor. “Finding good pitfalls is a pain in the ass. … I can’t just put them anywhere. I have to find stable pitfalls where the art will last for a long time.”
The “Masterpieces” mosaics reflect Bachor’s dry humor by highlighting the juxtaposition between highbrow and lowbrow art, he said.
“Street art is street art, and it’s not necessarily considered terribly fine art,” he said. “But my art takes a lot of time.”
Bachor said if he were to sell his pieces from his studio as if they were fine art, he would charge about $3,500 a piece.
“So it’s literally $3,500 worth of art stuck in the ground,” he said.
Bachor said he reached out to the Art Institute of Chicago about the series — joking that he’d like to get funding — but he hasn’t heard back.
Like much of Bachor’s work, the latest mosaics bring something beautiful to a place that might otherwise be considered ugly.
“Potholes are not attractive; everybody hates them,” Bachor said. “And then I’ll juxtapose them with maybe flowers because everyone loves flowers, or junk food because everyone loves junk food.”
Bachor said he hopes his art resonates with people and brings “unexpected smiles”.
Bachor also hides a gift bag — filled with goodies, including prints, magnets, keychains and coupons for his online store — near each piece he creates. The bags are usually gone within about 30 minutes of completing an installation, he said.
“It’s just a little bit of joy that you didn’t expect in a ridiculous space,” he said.
Bachor’s art is generally stuck in the ground, but you can buy prints, merchandise and more online.
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